Space & Innovation

Italian Village Holds Longevity Secret (Rosemary?)

A third of residents in a remote Italian village are over 100. Researchers aim to learn their secret.

What is the secret to a longer life? The answer may lie in a remote village nestled between the ocean and mountains on Italy's Mediterranean coast.

The town is called Acciaroli and although its population is small - only a couple thousand - at least 300 of them are 100 years or older. Compare that to the United States where the average life expectancy is a mere 78 years and only 0.02 percent reach 100.

So what gives? Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have teamed up with colleagues at University of Rome La Sapienza to find out.

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"We are the first group of researchers to be given permission to study this population in Acciaroli, Italy," said Alan Maisel, MD, lead UC San Diego School of Medicine investigator and professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, in a press release.

The team plans to collect blood samples from the village to scour for possible genetic advantages they may carry. They will also distribute surveys that ask about diet, lifestyle and fitness. Finally they will examine metabolomics, biomes, cognitive dysfunction and protein biomarkers for risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, kidney disease and cancer.

Anecdotally, this is what the researchers know so far: People in the village generally eat a Mediterranean diet that often features the herb rosemary. The village's location also seems to promote walking and hiking through the mountains as a part of daily activity.

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Maisel told NPR, they have noticed some other clues. In addition to rosemary, the villagers eat a lot of anchovies. He said he doesn't notice exercise classes in the village, nor has he seen many people jogging. In fact, Maisel told NPR that many of Acciaroli's elderly residents are overweight and smoke.

Finally, Maisel said, these people seem to know how to have a good time.

"In the evenings, in the late afternoon, they're all sitting around the cantinas, the restaurants," Maisel told NPR. "They're having some wine, some coffee."

The villagers of Acciaroli may indeed turn out to carry some superb genes, then again they already seem to show that living well means living long.

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Researchers are studying residents of a remote Italian village to better understand aging and longevity.

According to a long-term study, a few simple (and, perhaps, not-so-obvious) alterations in lifestyle can lead to longer, healthier lives.